Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Protecting our Posterity from the Prejudices of our Past
Nancy Ohmart
American History
Time Frame:
3-10 days
Civil Rights

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will do a short, self-evaluation over their own prejudices (many will say they are not or have few prejudices)
  • Students will, in small groups, determine literary terms (cooperative learning with our Language Arts Instructor) through reading primary documents (utilizing Common Core Standards)
  • Students will participate in a Multi-Media analysis (could cooperate with the Technology Instructor, if your students have that class)
  • Students will form another small group and through their own group investigation and synthesis of prior and presently learned information, will create a power point, Prezi, or webpage presentation utilizing secondary and primary sources. Each group will distinguish between fact and fiction for their own specific subject area, identify consequences when government intervention works and doesn’t work and share their own critics, and will formulate their own resolution to their assigned conflict. Then, the presenting students will lead a class discussion, answering questions, revealing their knowledge of their research and subject.

  • Students will determine what facts, fictions, emotions, and/or events were involved between individuals and groups as they examine past prejudices in the cities of Pierce City, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Little Rock, Arkansas; Wichita, Kansas.
  • Students will develop a deeper comprehension, through analysis and synthesis of the following: how laws, and their effects upon individuals and groups, have caused chaotic change through the times

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Missouri State Standards GLE’S for 8th GRADE:

  • Principles of the Republic 1.  Knowledge of the principles expressed in documents shaping republic in the United States     A. Principles of republic in the United States; SS1 1.10, apply important principles of the Bill of Rights; SS1 1.6, 4.2, apply knowledge of responsibility of governments and citizens
  • 6.  Knowledge of relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions
  • Tools of Social Science Inquiry 7.  Knowledge of the use of tools of social science inquiry                               A.  Identify, select, use, analyze and create appropriate resources, primary and secondary, for social science inquiry; SS7 1.2, 1.4, 2.1, select, investigate, and present a topic using primary and secondary resources, such as oral interviews, artifacts, journals, documents, photos, and letters



  • Goal 1. 2. Conduct research to answer questions and evaluate information and ideas
  • Goal 1. 4. Use technological tools and other resources to locate, select and organize information
  • Goal 2. 1. Plan and make written, oral and visual presentations for a variety of purposes and audiences
  • Goal 4. 3. Analyze the duties and responsibilities of individuals in societies




Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate    summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).


      Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.


      Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Vocabulary words to aid in an collaboration with the English/Language Arts Instructors could include the following:  discrimination, integration, abolition, minority, civil rights, banished, “Jim Crow Laws,” Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Day One Opening Activity or HOOK: Hand to students a slip of paper with the following five questions on it and an envelope.  The paper will have the following on it – Students, please read the following questions and circle T for True of F for False.  Then place in the provided envelope, seal it, and write your name on the outside of the envelope. Finally, place in the provided basket in the back of the room – this is NOT a test, please answer truthfully.  We will be using this paper later.

a. T or F Some people just ARE inferior to others

b. T or F Segregation was a good thing for most people

c.  T or F Would you ever use a person’s race as a reason to insult them verbally or through gestures?

d.  T or F Do you believe casual contact between groups of people reduce prejudice?

e.  T or F You know you hold the same or very similar prejudices as your parents and/or peers most of the time 



  • Hand out notecards to students and explain they will be listening to an audio song from the TRUMAN LIBRARY website called, “My chocolate Sammy” or sometimes called “Little Brown Sammy.”  Interject that they will be writing down 2-4 word phrases they hear which refer to the title of the song. AFTER listening, ask students to share, identify, compare and contrast what they heard to each other’s’ written words.  After approximately five minutes of class discussion, guide them to compare to prejudices today in their own lives (if they have not already guided themselves to personalizing the discussion) (should take 5-10 minutes).
  • NEXT, show the clip from the movie, “Remember the Titans,”  when the students are loading the bus to head to training and then later, unloading the bus returning from training, Ask students to examine and explain their own inferences over the white parents’ vs. the African-American parents’ responses (should take about 10-15 minutes). 
  • DAY ONE HOMEWORK: ask students to bring a list of 3-5 African-Americans who have influenced their own life (such as scientists, inventors, athletes, actors musicians, etc.).  Challenge them to bring in names which are not that recognizable (instead of Michael Jordan use John Taylor, etc.  Remind students they will need to explain why they picked the names they did). 



  • Day Two Opening Activity or HOOK AND learning activity:  Have a Scott Joplin Jazz music playing on video projector (from provided youtube link above) as students come in and then move into R&B Music by Aretha Franklin (Say a little prayer for you), and then (if you have time) play a more modern song/video such as the rap music link provided by Black Jewelz. Give students a notecard to write down words or phrases of emotions then discuss including an analysis of prior biases, point of views, or values we often have because of visualization vs. merely listening. This activity could take as little as 5 minutes or as much as 15 or more minutes depending upon your students’ involvement/discussion. The purpose is to open your students’ eyes to discrimination around them today and which they may possess in pre-conceived ideals because of their own diverse backgrounds.






  • Now, ask students to share their homework assignment (I would have them hold the cards up, to reveal if they did do it, for a daily grade) names and explanations, again, merely guiding the discussion as (hopefully) several new names are share (such as John Taylor). Conclude after about five minutes remind students the passions, emotions, inferences, values they are experiencing will be important as they create their comprehensive revelation (should take 5-10 minutes).



  • Instruct students to draw onto a piece of paper a clock with the 3, 6, 9, and 12 hour spots with a line next to each to write a name onto it. Next, continue to explain to them how to fill-in the lines. Discussing with other students, you will write the name of the person you would like to work with onto the 3 hour line (and they will write your name down). Once everyone has their first clock group written down, instruct them to fill in their 6 hour spot, and then when everyone has that line filled in, move onto the 9 and then the 12 hour spot. Finally, explain that these pairings will be utilized as we continue working on our learning activities (this should only take about 5 minutes).

DAY TWO HOMEWORK: hand out copies of the background information of Martin Luther King, Jr. and ask students to read this and be ready to discuss and use it in a learning activity the following day (from the website, www.eduref.org/Virtual/Lesson ).


Day Three Opening Activity or HOOK:  have playing on your classroom video projector Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream,” Speech (from the website, www.hbci.com) and ask students to listen as they come into class (it does take 20-30 minutes therefore you may only play a specific part).



  • Ask students to get into their 6 o’clock group and then to pair up with another group.  Now, give each group a literary term and a question to answer from his speech, enabling the students to not merely learn the literary terms, but to also learn group collaboration and analyze a primary document.

GROUP ONE – “five score years ago” is an allusion; please define this term and be prepared to explain to the class. Next, explain to what and whom the allusion is to. Third, was this a proper way for him to start his speech AND explain your inference.  Finally, find in his speech an allusion to the Bible and to the Declaration of Independence and do steps 1-3 for those passages also. I would assign this group to your group of students who are your overachievers; it will keep them learning and busy and NOT frustrate others because they finish early and desire everyone else know that.


GROUP TWO – Find two-three examples of alliteration; please define this term and be prepared to explain to the class. Next, explain your example, following the question, “what are some specific acts of injustice against African Americans he speaks of?” 


GROUP THREE - Find two-three examples of a metaphor; please define this term and be prepared to explain to the class. Also, discuss the term “The American Dream (look it up via the internet if needed),” within your group and be ready to share your own explanatory comparison and contrast with the class.


GROUP FOUR – Find 2-3 examples of a simile; please define this term and be prepared to explain to the class.  Also, reread the last section of his speech with lists several states’ names. Be ready to discuss your inference to why he did this.


GROUP FIVE - Find 3 examples of the form of speech called an anaphora; please define this term and be prepared to explain to the class. Include the actual phrases AND your judgment as to why he would utilize these phrases.


GROUP SIX – Find 3 examples of the form of speech called imagery; please define this term and be prepared to explain to the class.  Include the actual phrases and be prepared to clarify why he would feel he needed to use such strong images.

(This should take 30 minutes preparation and 15-20 minutes sharing). After every group has shared, give class time to synthesis what they just learned, listened to, and/or shared.

DAY THREE HOMEWORK: utilizing your own newly acquired information from the last three days learning activities and discussions, answer the following questions in 3-5 sentences: “if you had been alive AND present there the day Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” Speech, what would have been your own personal reaction and why?


Day Four Opening Activity or HOOK: Ask students to share their homework response with each other in their 3 o’clock group.


  • Direct students into their 12o’clock groups now, giving each a group of copies of the Dear Mr. President Letters (letters children wrote to President Truman about segregation from the TRUMAN LIBRARY WEBSITE; I would include 5 or more letters).  Also, give each group a Document Analysis Worksheet (also from the TRUMAN LIBRARY WEBSITE). Assign each group a journal activity where they will write their own letter to President Truman, utilizing at least five of their vocabulary words in proper usage. After about 15 minutes, ask groups to share their conclusions of the letters and, if they so desire, their own journal entry/letter.


  • Project upon your white board via your video projector the following quote from August Wilson’s play, “Fences,” “Some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in.” Ask students to ponder what they infer the author’s purpose was in writing this (who was he writing about, for, when, and why). You may need to briefly explain how the phrase, “Keeping people in,” could relate to slavery and “Keeping people out” could relate to the Jim Crow laws (if these are not concepts your students are already familiar with, you may need to explain in more detail).


  • Direct students to divide into their 9 o’clock groups and then pair up with another group.  Next, give each a Multi-Media Analysis Worksheet also found on the TRUMAN LIVRARY WEBSITE. Explain they will fill it, out as a group, as they watch a clip (you will need to watch it and choose the section which will best fit into your own unique classroom) from the movie, “Banished,” which is about the prejudice of the senior citizen man in Arkansas. After they have the analysis worksheet filled out, ask them to discuss it within their group (3 minutes) and then allow about 5 minutes for the entire class to discuss, comparing this to what they have already learned over the last few days.


  • Ask students to get into their 3 o’clock group and then to join 1-2 other groups (try to create 4 groups). Explain to them they will be relying upon the information they have acquired over the last few days, prior knowledge AND knowledge they will acquire through their now groups’ research. They will work for the next two days researching an event in the Four-State Area of Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. Assign each group one of the following: 1 = Kansas (Brown vs. Board of Education); 2 = Oklahoma (Tulsa Race Riots); 3 = Arkansas (Little Rock Central High School Integration);  4 = Missouri (Pierce City Race Riots). Give each group a copy of the following explanation: Each group will investigate and present their topic, using at least four primary and  four secondary sources along with statistical datum. They will use technology (hopefully in their tech class, if possible) to create an approximately 8 minute power point, Prezi, or webpage, distinguishing between fact, fiction, and points-of-view through analysis of the primary and secondary sources.  They will identify the consequences when governments (institutions) fail to meet the needs of individual or groups thus allowing cultural conflict. Finally, the group will show and share their inferences for a conflict resolution. 


  • You could add to this lesson by asking one group to peer critique another group.
  • At the end of the presentations, hand back the envelopes to the students, ask them to open and read, and then allow class reflective discussion.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:







Well-rehearsed with smooth delivery that holds audience attention.

Rehearsed with fairly smooth delivery that holds audience attention most of the time.

Delivery not smooth, but able to maintain interest of the audience most of the time.

Delivery not smooth and audience attention often lost.


Four Sources information collected for all graphics, facts and quotes. All documented in desired format.

Three Sources information collected for all graphics, facts and quotes. Three documented in desired format.

Two Sources information collected for graphics, facts and quotes, but not documented in desired format.

Very little or no source information was collected.


Makes excellent use of font, color, graphics, effects, etc. to enhance the presentation.

Makes good use of font, color, graphics, effects, etc. to enhance to presentation.

Makes use of font, color, graphics, effects, etc. but occasionally these detract from the presentation content.

Use of font, color, graphics, effects etc. but these often distract from the presentaion content.


Covers topic in-depth with details and examples. Subject knowledge is excellent.

Includes essential knowledge about the topic. Subject knowledge appears to be good.

Includes essential information about the topic but there are 1-2 factual errors.

Content is minimal OR there are several factual errors.


Content is well organized using headings or bulleted lists to group related material.

Uses headings or bulleted lists to organize, but the overall organization of topics appears flawed.

Content is logically organized for the most part.

There was no clear or logical organizational structure, just lots of facts.


Product shows a large amount of original thought. Ideas are creative and inventive.

Product shows some original thought. Work shows new ideas and insights.

Uses other people's ideas (giving them credit), but there is little evidence of original thinking.

Uses other people's ideas, but does not give them credit.


The workload is divided and shared equally by all team members.

The workload is divided and shared fairly by all team members, though workloads may vary from person to person.

The workload was divided, but one person in the group is viewed as not doing his/her fair share of the work.

The workload was not divided OR several people in the group are viewed as not doing their fair share of the work.

Rough Draft

Rough draft brought on due date. Student shares with peer and extensively edits based on peer feedback.

Rough draft brought on due date. Student shares with peer and peer makes edits.

Provides feedback and/or edits for peer, but own rough draft was not ready for editing.

Rough draft not ready for editing and did not participate in reviewing draft of peer.


No misspellings or grammatical errors.

Three or fewer misspellings and/or mechanical errors.

Four misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

More than 4 errors in spelling or grammar.